On the rare occasions when people ask me for it, I can give pretty darn good advice.
Don’t rob a bank if you like rooms with four real walls and a separate bathroom.
Don’t wear a short skirt without underwear when it’s windy.
Don’t reheat the garlic bread in the microwave when it’s still in its tin foil.
To be fair, I’ve only done one of these things myself, and only for a few seconds. (Have you seen blue lightning in the microwave? For a moment I thought I’d caught a dragon.)
It’s easy to say these sensible things when you’re not personally involved. You’re not going to end the day with a bag full of shiny $20 notes and equally you’re not going to end it sleeping in a bed beside your toilet (if the TV shows are to be believed).
It’s harder to see what the right thing is when you’re the person who has to be constricted by underwear or take the garlic bread out of its wrapping before reheating it.
When a friend messages me to say, “I met a guy but I don’t know if he likes me or not,” it’s easy to say, “Ask him out. The worst he can do is say no.”
Would I take that advice myself?
Of course not–I’m married. But before I was married when I liked a guy I asked him out.
Which means that’s not a very good example.
Hmm, a better example…
A friend says, “I want to make more friends, but I never leave the house.”
I say, “You need a hobby that involves interacting with 3D people. Go out and try something new. Start by talking to the other people who do it and see if you like them.”
Then I jump back on my laptop.
To be fair, I don’t want to meet more people.
Then it’s my turn.
Me: Dear Great Cat, I like aspects of my job, but I’m always stressed out of my mind and it’s making me miserable. What should I do, Your Wondrousness?
Great Cat: Open a tin of tuna
Me: Will that help?
Great Cat: I want tuna.
I know, it’s not the Great Cat’s job to solve all the problems of the world.
If a friend came to me with this problem I might have sensible advice: Figure out what tasks you don’t really need to do. Explain to whomever’s giving you the work that you don’t have time to do it all. Learn to say no. If you can’t do what you need to do in this job, think about getting a different one.
But when it’s me it’s not that easy. I already say no to things. I need to do all these tasks.
I need to eat more raw fish.
Okay, maybe not that one.
When it’s me with the problem, when I hear possible solutions all I can think of is the reasons why they won’t work.
I tried that. I can’t do that. I have to do that.
Stop. Deep breath. I might have responses to these protests if I could shut up long enough to hear them.
So I have a new process for when faced with a tricky problem.
I imagine it’s a friend asking me what to do in that situation and tell myself what I’d tell her.
Then I let myself protest.
Then I respond to the protests.
Then I let myself protest again.
Then I ask if the objections are genuine or if what I’m really saying is, “I don’t want to do that because it’s hard and scary.” It’s easier to see this clearly when you’re pretending it’s not you with the problem.
Hard and scary are insidious, but the first step to defeating them is acknowledging they’re the issue.
Would I hold my friend’s hand and encourage her to take the step despite it being hard and scary?
If I would, I should do the same for myself.**
** Note I’m not saying I actually do this. It’s hard and scary–what do you think I am? But I acknowledge it’s a good idea.
Do you have any great (or not so great) ideas on how to convince yourself to do something hard and scary? Do you think it would help if you were to pretend you were someone else and it was their life you were potentially screwing up? No? Well, it was worth asking.
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